When to Harvest a Pumpkin or Winter Squash

when-is-a-pumpkin-ready-to-pick

I get asked now and again when to harvest pumpkins or how to tell if a squash is ready to pick.

Well, on Friday I posted a video demonstrating when to harvest a pumpkin or winter squash:

Though those aren’t the best demonstration specimens, I covered the basics in the video.

I know for most of you this is EXACTLY the wrong time of year to share a post like this as pumpkin season is long gone. Perhaps it will help you later this year, though, once you all thaw out and get your gardens going.

Here’s a quick overview on how I know when to harvest pumpkins and winter squash.

Is the Stem on the Fruit Still Green?

Stem-still-green

Then don’t cut it. That means the fruit is still receiving nutrition from the main vine.

But…

If the Pumpkin Stem is Yellow or Brown, Cut it!

stem-brown

The fruit is no longer receiving sap from the plant, so it’s time to cut that pumpkin or winter squash off and bring it inside.

If the Main Vine is Dead, Harvest That Squash!

dead-vine

Sometimes, as was the case with at least one of the pumpkins in my video, the stem on the fruit may still be green but the main vine is withing away and dying.

Chances are nothing else is going to happen, so cut the fruit and bring it inside.

If the Fruit is Damaged, Use it for Soup!

damaged-squash-fruit

If there’s a rotten spot on your pumpkin or winter squash, chances are it’s not going to keep well on the shelf. Go ahead and cut it, then use as soon as possible. The flavor won’t be as good as a “cured” pumpkin or squash, so I like to remove the damaged portion, peel and seed the fruit, then use them for soup.

How to Harvest a Pumpkin or Winter Squash Properly

It’s important to leave a bit of stem on your pumpkins or winter squash when you harvest them.

Like this:

Rebel Gardens web graphics-03

when-to-harvest-a-pumpkin

I usually leave about an inch. I don’t pluck the pumpkins from the stems or break them off, I cut them nicely.

In the video I’m using these Felco picking and trimming snips (which I love for taking cuttings and precise trimming work). Those have been a go-to tool for me since I bought them for my old plant nursery. Great little snips.

Any pair of pruners will work, though. Just be gentle and don’t accidentally break the entire stem off the fruit. That leaves an entry for decay microorganisms which can lower the storage time of your squash significantly.

Taste Takes Time

SeminolePumpkinDavidTheGood

Unlike most vegetables which are at their best when fresh harvested, pumpkins and winter squash improve in flavor when stored for at least a few weeks.

I like to pick on a dry day, if possible, then let the fruit dry a little further on the back porch. Once they’re good and dry, I bring them inside and set them on a shelf to “cure” for a bit.

Seminole pumpkins will keep for as long as a year… or longer.

Other varieties tend to keep for at least a few months, though some winter squash, like Delicatas, don’t keep long at all, so use those first.

And speaking of using pumpkins and squash, Rachel recently posted a video on how she likes to cook and use the many pumpkins and squash we grow and purchase from farm stands.

Roasting Pumpkins and Squash

Roasting a pumpkin in the oven is simple – here’s how Rachel does it:

Enjoy the winter, everyone.

May this post encourage you to look ahead to spring and plan out those amazing gardens with lots of pumpkins and squash.

I just planted some more a few days ago. Can’t stop the pumpkins!

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2 comments

  • I really like your You Tube videos. Even the one where you tried to be serious and like all the other garden You Tube shows. Dude, even THAT was funny! Oh, and I appreciate the info on the winter squash and pumpkins. I needed it.
    Planing on really working the garden thing this spring and summer. Got J. R.’s chicken video, built the tractor, stuffed fifteen chicks in it after they got fully feathered. Expected to loose about half but thanks to the magic water and soaked feed and maybe the electric fence as well, I still have all 15! And only two are roosters! I’m gonna be loaded with eggs soon! Pretty good of a 66 year old gal, huh?
    Young as they are they’ve already got my front garden area about half ready!
    Thanks for all the info! Especially on composting!

    • You did it! Good for you. That is fantastic.

      And yeah… I was laughing the whole time I made the “Dave2000” video. I appreciate the kind words. It’s been a lot of fun turning that channel into something good.

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